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Image of the Virginia AG Seal

Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

 

For media inquiries only, contact:  
Charlotte Gomer, Press Secretary
Phone: (804)786-1022 
Mobile: (804) 512-2552
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

HERRING EXPRESSES GRATITUDE FOR VIRGINIANS’ WORK TO REDUCE OPIOID OVERDOSE DEATHS

~ Latest statistics show a slight decrease in drug overdose deaths and fatal opioid overdoses for the first time since 2012 ~

RICHMOND (May 1, 2019)—Attorney General Mark R. Herring today expressed gratitude for the work of advocates, families, doctors, recovery communities, elected officials, public health professionals, and others who have helped reduce Virginia’s number of fatal drug overdoses for the first time in six years. According to the latest statistics from the Virginia Department of Health, the number of fatal drug overdoses declined modestly from 1,536 in 2017 to 1,484 in 2018, while the number of fatal opioid overdoses declined from 1,230 in 2017 to 1,213 in 2018. This follows five consecutive years of increase in fatal overdoses.

 

Fentanyl continues to account for the majority of opioid overdoses, and fatal fentanyl overdoses rose from 770 in 2017 to 813 in 2018. Meanwhile, heroin overdose deaths ticked down slightly from 558 in 2017 to 555 in 2018, and fatal prescription drug overdoses declined from 507 in 2017 to 477 in 2018.

 

“Hope and optimism are so important in combatting substance abuse disorder on both a personal and policy-making level. Every bit of progress and good news, even if small, should be recognized,” said Attorney General Herring. “We should be heartened and hopeful to see that overdose deaths seem to have plateaued and may be starting to decline, but nearly 1,500 overdose deaths, mostly from opioids, is still a staggering number that shows this epidemic is far from over. The opioid crisis grew over many years, fueled in large part by illegal conduct by pharmaceutical companies, and it will take a sustained commitment over many years by government, nonprofits, families, community organizations, healthcare providers, schools, and faith communities to get the problem turned around and hold those responsible to account. But these numbers should give us some optimism that Virginia’s comprehensive approach—emphasizing treatment, education, and prevention, along with smart enforcement—can produce results and save lives.”

 

The opioid crisis has been one of Attorney General Herring’s top priorities. For more than five years he has worked to address the epidemic with a multifaceted approach that includes enforcementeducation, prevention, and legislation to encourage reporting of overdoses in progress, expand the availability of naloxone, and expand access to the Prescription Monitoring Program. He has supported federal efforts to improve the availability of treatment and recovery resources, made prescription drug disposal kits available across the Commonwealth, and won numerous awards for his efforts to prevent drug abuse, including his award winning documentary “Heroin: The Hardest Hit” and its companion website, www.HardestHitVA.com

 

In 2017 Attorney General Herring outlined his recommended next steps for combating the crisis, focusing on law enforcement initiatives, support from the medical community, and recovery, treatment, prevention and education. He is also participating in a multistate investigation into the practices of drug manufacturers and distributors to determine what role they may have played in creating or prolonging the crisis.

 

Notably, Attorney General Herring has filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the creator of Oxycontin, for their role in helping to create and prolong the opioid epidemic in Virginia. The lawsuit was filed in Tazewell County, Virginia in June 2018 and remains active.

 

Attorney General Herring has also been a strong supporter of Virginia’s Medicaid ARTS program and Medicaid expansion, two critical initiatives that have expanded access to substance abuse treatment. The Department of Medical Assistance Services estimates that the ARTS waiver increased treatment rates for Medicaid participants with substance abuse disorders by 70 percent. He is also defending the Affordable Care Act, which guarantees coverage for substance abuse treatment, against a lawsuit seeking to end the coverage guarantee and all protections from preexisting conditions, including substance abuse.

 

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